North East Devolution and Levelling Up

Increase Local Powers To Boost Wellbeing – Report

More powers for local governance and greater public engagement are among measures needed to increase people’s wellbeing, according to a new report. Localism and participatory democracy are among the cornerstones of wellbeing, according to the Carnegie UK Trust. 

It is proposing gross domestic wellbeing (GDWe) as an alternative to the purely economic gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of social progress. GDWe takes account of factors such as relationships, health, personal finance, education and skills, the environment and governance. 

While GDP over the last six years appears to have steadily increased, says the Carnegie Trust, GDWe has slowed and has begun to move in the opposite direction. 

The Trust measures governance by voter turnout and trust in government, and found that governance scores consistently lower than wellbeing overall. There was, however, a temporary rise in trust in 2015/16, perhaps related in part to the outcome and approach to the Brexit referendum, it says.

As part of its work the Trust’s report, Gross Domestic Wellbeing: an alternative measure of social progress’ reviewed 41 other commissions and inquiries and their recommendations, including 166 recommendations relating to governance. 

On governance, the Trust says: ‘There are repeated calls to create a new relationship between central, regional and local government, based on a shared understanding of their objectives and allowing for local tailoring to suit the needs and priorities of individual communities.

‘Examples from the commissions and inquiries reviewed include greater powers for combined authorities and greater local flexibility on spending.’ On participatory democracy, it adds: ‘Our analysis demonstrates that social progress cannot be understood without engaging people about what matters to them and that wellbeing cannot be ‘done to’ people. Examples from the commissions and inquiries reviewed include citizens’ assemblies and community empowerment’.